Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A Brief Update on Aiki Finances

One of our guiding principles when we first took on this particular endeavour was to try to trim down our lifestyle such that it allowed us to spend more time together.  For a family of introverts, we sincerely enjoy one another's company!

The first three years we were able to bask in the ability to spend the entire time together most days.  It didn't mean we were attached to one another, but moreso that if one of us needed to work on a large project, the other was free to keep an eye on Kenny.

While Kenny has grown and doesn't need constant (or really any) supervision, we still want to be sure that he is involved in the goings on in our household and connected to us.

Unfortunately, fiscal realities set in and my part time income(s) certainly weren't enough to keep us afloat.

Donna's skill set is much more employable and as such, she has gone back to work.  First at three days a week, then moving up to four, and for nearly a year now at five.  This is definitely the opposite direction from where we intended that particular needle to move.

Rather than get bogged down in how annoying this has been, I'm going to write only about the positive spin it has put on our finances for now.  If it weren't for that, I don't believe it is something we would want to continue for any longer than required.

It has allowed us to pay off the roof of the cabin when we realized that was a project that couldn't be tackled by one person.

It allowed us to purchase a more reliable vehicle to make the pilgrimage back to southern Ontario to visit family once (or twice?) a year.

It reduced a fair amount of stress from watching the bank balance that once seemed so high in the black, to keep tracking into the red.

We like the bank balance needle moving higher again, but we also are mindful that Kenny is at a great age to start having more adventures together.  Whether here on the homestead, or perhaps showing him a bit more of the world.  We also now believe that providing him with some of his own tangible assets may be a good plan for his future; something that seems increasingly hard to prepare for or predict using traditional means.

Almost two years ago we suffered from reduced access to one of our greatest resources out here on the homestead - one that I've often admitted was the difference between total failure and the successes we've had.

Mummu and Grandpa decided to move from the property adjacent to us back to the city.  It's nice that they are still more than close enough to visit often, but it's nowhere near what it was like when we could walk back and forth between us.

One of their choices in moving to the city was that they no longer wanted to be home owners.  They were happy to rent and have fewer worries about how to maintain a household.  Not to mention no longer having to cut wood and blow out a huge driveway.

An idea floated while they began their search for an appropriate place to move to - for Donna and I to purchase a tidy little home of their choosing, and then turn around and rent it to them for enough to cover the expenses.  This would give everyone the best of the situation.  We still had a mid-sized HELOC [home equity line of credit] on our house in Kitchener, and the local RBC was willing to provide a mortgage for the remainder based on Donna's income and our credit rating.

Together we found a cozy bungalow that seemed to check off all the required boxes.

This situation worked so well for the first year that it began to show us a way to perhaps get Donna home sooner.

With that in mind, we tapped even more of the equity in our Kitchener home to purchase a triplex in Thunder Bay, and placed three very lovely tenants there.  It required more renovations than we expected (isn't that always the case?), but we believe we have done most of the heavy lifting so that it shouldn't require many more inputs going forward.

Mummu and Grandpa have been at their place a bit over a year now, and recently we began looking for something else for them as there were a few things that they would prefer to have differently.  Luckily we found another home in the city that they like even more, and it sports a small suite in the basement which should help to off-set the increased price.

So here we are, about to close on that house, and lining up renters for the house they are now leaving, as well as this new basement suite.

Truth be told, this year we probably will make very little or even nothing from all of these "doors" - as renovations took a bit of a toll on the balance.  We also had windstorms in southern Ontario that damaged the roof in Kitchener, which needed to be repaired to the tune of many thousands of dollars.

We're optimistic that with these large capital expenses finished, rental properties may provide a less time-intensive stream of income for the family budget and may soon free up Donna significantly.

I'll try to add in a bit more writing about how we are managing our time and money going forward, as I think that's an important part of the picture.  Things like financial independence and early retirement have played a large part of our thoughts of late, and so it's only fair to include them on the blog.

Bonus picture of "hawky" - a hawk that has been hanging around the cabin quite a bit the past week, and appears nearly tame!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Using Sour Milk to Make Quick and Easy Cheese in our Rice Cooker

We were down to our last bag of milk.  Luckily I had starred milk on our Wunderlist and made sure to purchase some more just as we started the bag.

Unfortunately, as I went to pour Kenny a glass from that final bag, he remarked something like "I don't know if that's a different kind of milk from usual, but I really don't like it."  Immediately I  sampled it and could taste the distinct acidity of milk starting to turn.  I set the bag aside in the fridge and poured him a glass of new milk, and decided to take another spin at making cheese the next day.

I don't know if I'm unique, but I still torment myself with embarrassment even over things that happened years and years and years ago.  Often to such a degree that recalling those events causes me to cry out loud now, at my age.  Fortunately Kenny has learned a bit about this quirk of his father's, and when he hears me make these whimpers, if I reply that I'm just remembering something embarrassing to his queries, he soon lets the issue drop.

The title of this blog post is one of those embarrassing memories.  Then again, as I start really embracing the dad joke, perhaps it isn't so bad.

On the plus side, it was pretty much exactly the recipe I used for making cheese this time around.  Cost of cheese - about $1.50, using milk that was going in the thunderbox anyway, so that's not bad.  It tasted like some sort of fancy gourmet cheese that would have been much more than $1.50 for 100gm, so I guess I came out ahead there.  Thinking I should save some brine from feta, and put this in the brine to give it that same flavour. I may end up making my own cheese on a more regular basis?

Much easier to heat the milk in a rice cooker!  Just set on cook and wait for the bubbles.

Maybe an ounce of vinegar.

Cheesecloth and colander assembled.

Right on queue, here's the bubbles!

Things happen real fast when the vinegar goes in.  Stir for a minute, switch to warm, and let this just curdle for maybe a quarter hour.

Pouring through the cheesecloth.

Still pouring.

Pouring complete.  There's the curd in the colander.

Wrapped up the cloth, set between two dinner plates, and put on a full jug of vinegar to press it for another half hour or so. 
Looks cheesy.  Very bland.  Needs lots of kosher salt!

And packaged for salads or just eating straight up.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

A Rack for Milled Lumber

As you probably remember from the post about me starting up the sawmill again, I've just been throwing the 2x4's willy-nilly all over the ground in an effort to make a big dent in the skidway.

Ugh, what a mess.
Doesn't really look any better from this angle.
Me thinking, "I'll deal with you later!"
After the pile started to get really unruly looking though, I decided it was time to put that stuff on a rack neatly for aesthetic, quality, safety and space reasons.

I planned out a complicated rack that I could build using gas pipe and gas pipe fittings and headed in to Home Depot.

Unfortunately, when I arrived, they had only a fraction of the types of fittings I would have needed, and even less of the pipe in the sizes I wanted.  On top of that, a mental calculation of cost made it less and less attractive.

I headed down to storage solutions and then figured that, while sub-optimal, a heavy duty storage rack should still be able to be pressed into service.  As such, I purchased the largest, heaviest duty one they had and headed home.

While Donna and Kenny pursued their chores at the cabin, I assembled the racking on a level area really close to the mill, and began to load up the product I had already cut.  I was able to fit five boards across, then a sticker, and then repeat this process for three layers.  This times four shelves gave me space for theoretically 60 boards at a time.  Realistically, I lost a number of slots where the diagonal braces spanned the ends, but I also made up a number of slots on the top shelf which I could pile higher.  I also found that I could even pile a couple boards outside the shelving on the protruding ends of the stickers.

Nice, level area close to the mill.
Sliding them in from the end is just the way of things.
Looks nice and neat though!
All in all, it sure has cleaned up the mill area, and I trust that it will help keep the boards I cut straighter than they would be just piled on the ground.  I'll report back if there are any issues.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Kenny's Garden Harvest

Be it ever so humble, there are no veggies quite like "grown on your own..."

Showing off the bounty from our raised beds.  Made for amazing fresh salad!